There have been a number of games which revolve around constructing bridges that have released over the years, with my favourite to date being Bridge Constructor Portal – a construction game merged with the mechanics of Valve’s hit puzzle game. Due to the success of this rather unique take on the genre, Headup Games and ClockStone have finally released the original Bridge Constructor game, along with a bunch of included DLC packs, on the Nintendo Switch.
I’ve personally always enjoyed these types of games, building creative structures and hoping that they keep their shape and strength as you send lemming-like people over them, praying they don’t simply fall to their doom. However, I never realised how difficult the original game was – Bridge Constructor: Ultimate Edition isn’t a game you’ll be finished with after a few hours, it surprised me with how tricky and thought-provoking some of the levels can get.
So, let’s take a close look…
Bridge Constructor is one of those games where you instantly know what you’re getting by simply reading the title, you construct bridges. However, forget your standard triangle-based structures (after the first few levels) as you need to think outside of the box and get much more creative than that if you wish to succeed. By using four different materials (wood, stone, iron and cables), you need to join point A to point B then send over a convoy of vehicles and pray that they make it across in one piece, otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board.
This wouldn’t be that difficult if you had an unlimited budget, but you don’t. So, you need to be mindful of how expensive the more structurally-sound materials are and make use of the cheaper, but weaker, wooden alternatives where possible. In terms of building, you do it all in a 2.5D world upon a grid, making symmetrical and pin-point accuracy fairly easy as you plan out your best ideas. Also, if you decide to play the game in portable mode, as I did, you can either use the Joycons or simply touch the screen in order to place, edit, remove, and operate the various functions – something quite a few games aren’t taking advantage of anymore.
I personally played it in portable mode with my Brain Training stylus, which wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. As the game is technically looking for your finger, rather than the accurate stylus, the road/beam you’re trying to place or edit seems to always be a few grid squares off from where you touch the screen. This is clearly so you can see where it is under your finger, as it’s not expecting a small-nibbed stylus, so it took a little getting used to. This is nothing against the game, as it works great with your finger, I’ve just become obsessed with using the stylus now!
With a subtitle of “Ultimate Edition”, you’d expect there to be more than just the base game, a presumption which is correct. Other than the standard base game, you also get access to the Slopemania and Trains expansion packs. These offer two new campaigns which revolve around new solutions and vehicles whilst utilising the same core gameplay mechanics and materials.
• Slopemania is, as you’d expect, all about creating roads which slope up or down in order to get from A to B, making you forget about standard bridge building and focus on how to make a non-level surface as strong as possible.
• Trains is, if you hadn’t guessed yet, all about trains – ClockStone seem to know how to appropriately name their games and expansions! This is technically the same as the base game only instead of sending cars and trucks over the final structure, you’re sending heavy passenger and freight locomotives, vehicles which stress out your bridge much faster. So, a bridge which worked previously may no longer take the weight of these big boys.
On top of these two official expansions, there are three unusual additions, timed events which only unlock at certain times of the year. There’s Winter World (December and January), Easter Island (March 15th until May 15th), and Spooky Islands (October 15th to November 15th). If you’re not playing within any of those date ranges, you can see the option to play them but you can’t access them. If you’re curious about what the levels look like, you can technically change the date of your Nintendo Switch to fall within one of the above dates and the levels will open. However, the developer clearly wants you to experience them at certain times of the year – so it’s your choice whether you want to play them early or not.
The ‘Bad Rats’ of Bridge construction?
Everyone knows what the definition of insanity is, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. Well, the infamous PC game, Bad Rats, defied this as running the exact same physics-based simulation over and over resulted in different outcomes due to its poor use of the physics engine and 2.5D visual style which introduced a lot of variables into the puzzles. Bridge Constructor, although far from being a bad game like Bad Rats, also displays physics-breaking outcomes which can sometimes help you out.
Basically, if you set up a bridge and run the simulation, you may have the whole structure collapsing mid-way, making your poor passengers plummet to their death. However, tapping the corresponding button to restart the sim may actually result in the bridge giving way in a different point or your vehicle actually clipping with the falling structure and getting shot over the finishing line (which happened to me a few times). Ultimately, if your bridge is going to collapse, it’ll collapse – no matter how many times you hit restart and pray you’ll make it over the line (that’s insanity). But, you can get a few amusing results if you like magical flying trains and cars (see above video)!
Also, although there are some solutions online to the various levels (which I don’t recommend you look at unless you’re really stuck), each level can be completed in many ways – there is no ‘right answer’, as such. This is why the simulation sometimes plays out slightly differently, the only limit behind what you can build is your in-game budget, so the game has to work out the various solutions dynamically.
I had no performance or quality issues with Bridge constructor – which you’d expect as the game is on literally everything, including mobiles. Visually the game looks the part – 3D rendered backdrops and a 2.5D area which you work in, both working together to deliver a nice-looking experience. You can even zoom in quite far within both the editing and testing stages, allowing you to get a close up of the vehicles or make accurate adjustments to the bridge itself.
The music is very jolly and has a simulator-vibe to it. It’s hard to explain but if you’ve played a lot of simulator games, as I have, you’ll know what I mean.
With regards to the physics, it is a little strange that you don’t get the same responses each time you hit play, but it’s not a dealbreaker and I didn’t feel like the game was purposely screwing me over. If you look at the developers latest Bridge-making game, Bridge Constructor Portal, that one felt a lot more consistent with the physics than this, but then again, this game is now nine years old (technically).
Bridge Constructor: Ultimate Edition simply hands you a spanner and tells you to “get on with it”. Your imagination, and the budget of each level, are the only limits to what you can build and how to build it – as long as the test vehicles cross the line, it’s a success. The additional two DLC packs, Slopemania and Trains, both offer hours of content on top of the decent-sized main game, and the three timed mini-campaigns are equally as good although strangely locked behind a date-lock. If you thought bridges were all about simple triangles and boring designs, pick up this game today and see just how creative you have to get.
If you enjoy bridge-building simulation games, I’d also highly recommend Bridge Constructor Portal, by the same developers, as the implementation of the Portal mechanic really changes the way you think about things. But, if you’re looking for something more realistic, or you’ve already completed that game, then Bridge Constructor: Ultimate Edition is for you.
Bridge Constructor Ultimate Edition£11.99
- - Includes both the Slopemania and Trains expansions as well as three date-specific worlds
- - Supports touch-screen and Joycon controls
- - Multiple ways to solve each puzzle/bridge
- - Nice visuals and fitting music
- - Could possibly take many, many hours to pass every level
- - The physics aren't always consistent as repeating the same setup can yield different results
- - Despite having the two expansions, the gameplay always stayed the same with no major mechanic changes
- - The date-based levels are a good idea (most likely coming from the mobile version of the game) but I would have prefered them to all be unlocked as standard on the console